Olfactory Pollution

On the way into the restaurant at lunch today, I had to hold my breath as I passed the smoking Jeep. The Jeep was not engulfed in flames; rather its driver was burning through a cigarette before taking her meal. It was pretty noxious, not appetizing in any way.

My opposition to smoking off your private property is not based on carcinogens. While I have no doubt that the modern cigarette causes cancer, I do not believe that casual, second-hand smoke poses enough of a public menace that it should be outlawed. Cigarette smoke should be restricted for the same reason that overpowering fragrances of all sorts ought to be: they are impolite.

I think cigarette smoke, body odor, and cloying perfumes are all unacceptable. This is not to say that I think we need to resort to litigation. Rather, we should be able to rely on civilized behavior to moderate the smells we inflict on each other. We would not tolerate someone standing next to us in line and shouting. In fact, the shouting-cell-phone-guy has become a joke. We would not tolerate someone walking around with some offensive slogan on sandwich boards.

None of those activities is illegal because we cherish our freedoms. But just because one is free to do something does not mean that one can not be shunned for it. Why do we accept this olfactory assault? Of course it is a gray area. We must still maintain our tolerance of others. But there is a line and, when someone crosses it, we ought not allow it.


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